Indictment of Sheriff Mullin
Indictment by the federal grand Jury of Sheriff John Mullin of Thurston County,
Nebraska, is an act of peculiar significance to those who are familiar with the
details of the war which has been carried on by the citizens of Pender and the
Flournoy Land and Live Stock company on one side and Capta'n William H Beck,
Tenth United States cavalry, acting Indian agent for the Omaha and Winnebago
reservations, on the other.
It means first, that the trouble between the
agency and the village is to be settled in the courts, as was prophesied by the
World Herald correspondent at the time of the recent difficulty; and second,
that the much mooted question of jurisdiction will soon be decided by competent
brief, the history of the case is this The
Flournoy Company leased several thousand acres of land from the Winnebago
Indians. These lands they subleased to
white settlers on the reservation, taking notes in payment of rent and transferring
the paper to supposedly innocent purchasers in order to realize money to enable
the company to carry on its business.
Captain Beck, claiming to act under instructions
from the commissioner of Indian affairs, held that these leases were invalid
and that no man might hold land under lease on the reservation unless it was
countenanced by him and approved try the secretary of the Interior.
The Flournoy Company on the other hand, held
that its leases having been made with the Indians before any such rule had
been published were valid and refused to recognize the right of the Indian
agent to interfere in cases where they had subleased.
condition of affairs, coupled with bitter personal attacks on the part of both
parties caused great friction, the last serious evidence of it being the arrest
of the sheriff by the Indian police during April.
The direct cause of the arrest was this:
The Flournoy Company had leased land to one
Watterman, who, acting on the advice of Captain Beck, it is alleged, defaulted
in his payments.
was evicted by the company and one Marmion placed in possession.
Captain Beck then ordered his Indian police to
remove Marmion and restore Watterman to possession.
This was done.
following this, warrants were issued out of the county court of Thurston County
requiring the arrest of the Indians who dispossessed Marmion.
Sheriff Mullin was given these warrants to
He started out alone after the Indians, met
eight of them and when he attempted to read his warrant was seized, handcuffed
and taken to
police in the discharge of their duty.
night of the arrest of the sheriff more warrants were issued from the county
court, and Mullin’s deputy, with a posse, went after the Indian police.
were charged with interfering with the sheriff in the discharge of his duty.
Indians were arrested, taken to Pender, tried, found guilty and confined in the
Jail for perhaps a week when they were released.
All of this created considerable excitement in
Pender, and for a time it looked as though serious trouble might result. However nothing more deadly than loud talk
was expended and the belief was general at Pender that the matter would be permitted
to blow over.
Now comes the indictment.
interest in the case, as far as the general public is concerned, is centered on
the question of jurisdiction.
Thurston County is of peculiar construction. Of its
territory 240,000 acres are contained in
the Indian reservations, while but 40,000 acres are settled by whiles and
subject to taxation.
is the only town, and is built at the edge of the Omaha Reservation.
county officers claim jurisdiction over both whites and Indians, and that the Indian agent recognizes this claim, at least in part, to evidenced by the fact that a Justice of the peace (a
Winnebago Indian) maintains his office at the office while one of the sheriff's
deputies is also an Indian
living at the agency.
The right of the sheriff to make arrests on
the reservation has not been questioned except
in cases affecting leaseholds.
Indian agent appears to take this position that he is authorized to decide what
are and what are not legal arrests.
is one of the most peculiar cases of disputed jurisdiction that has arisen for
years, and the outcome of the prosecution of Mullin by the government will be
watched with interest, not only by the people of Pender and the tenants of the
Flournoy Company whom it directly affects, but by lawyers throughout the
Herald – May 21, 1895